Agua fresca is a popular Mexican fruit drink. It is sometimes also called Aguacita or Agua de fruta. Agua fresca literally means "fresh water," but these drinks are not very watery at all. They come in many different flavors, but the most common are lemon (limón), pineapple (piña), tamarind (tamarindo), watermelon (sandía), hibiscus (jamaica), strawberry (fresa), mango, guava, guayaba, and horchata-flavored. These are the kinds of aguas frescas you can buy on the street at heladerias, the Mexican equivalent to an ice cream parlor. They sell them out of huge metal vats and use hand-sized blocks of ice to keep them cool. These heladeria types are usually pretty sweet, however, when people make agua fresca at home, it's usually much less sweet, and they make them out of other kinds of things, such as cucumbers (pepino) and melons.

I used to buy this stuff all the time from the vendors on the street in Ensenada (only got sick once!), and the drink quickly became one of my favorites. One day I was invited to dinner by a woman living next to the hostel I was staying at in El Sauzal. It was my first time eating homemade Mexican food in Mexico. When I was offered agua fresca de piña, I gladly accepted and was poured a large glass. Everyone hadn't sat down yet, so I didn't drink it right away as I didn't want to seem rude. The mole I was served was very smoky-hot, so I took a big swig of my drink... and almost spit it out across the table. I was expecting what I had partaken of so many times at the market, but this tasted like water that had been used to WASH pineapples, not at all the sweet stuff I was accustomed to. It wasn't exactly bad, it was just not what I was expecting, so it threw me for a loop. After drinking some more, I realized that it actually complimented the food very well, and that if it were sweet, it would have been taken away from the dishes themselves.

Sound interesting? Why don't you try it?

Agua fresca de fresa

Ingredients:

4 cups of sliced strawberries (though, you can use pretty much any juicy fruit that can be pureed. You might have to adjust the amount of fruit depending on how much juice it contains)
1½ cups of water
2-6 tablespoons of sugar, to taste.
2-3 limes, juiced.

Puree strawberries and pour through a fine sieve to eliminate pulp and seeds. In a pitcher, mix strained fruit puree with water and season with sugar and lime juice, to taste.

This will make about 1 quart of agua fresca. It can be easily doubled.

Agua fresca de pepino

Ingredients:

3 quarts water
3 English cucumbers, peeled and roughly sliced
7 limes, (juiced to make around ½ cup of juice)
1/4 cup sugar (or more, if you so desire)

Put ½ cup of water in a blender container with 1 cup of sliced cucumber. Blend. Add more cucumber and blend. Continue until all the cucumbers are pureed.
Strain the cucumber juice of its seeds through a sieve into a very large pitcher. Add the remaining water, lime juice, and sugar, to taste. Chill before serving.

Instead of making lemonade this summer, why not try one of these yummy drinks? If you do, let me know how you like them.